In the Christian circles I like running around in, whenever someone suggests that God is no longer in covenant with the nation of Israel and that modern Israel is not part of God’s plans, many people assume what is in view is Replacement Theology: the idea that God replaced Israel in God’s plan and promises with the Christian Church.
I believe God is not in covenant with the modern nation of Israel and has no plans for the modern nation state of Israel or modern Jews as a nation. God has no more biblical promises that apply to the nation of Israel in our day.
And I do not hold to replacement theology.
Replacement theology misses the mark, as does the view that God has a covenant relationship or promises to fulfill with modern Jewish “race” or the nation-state of Israel.
I used to think modern Israel was part of God’s plan. In fact, I grew up being taught that there would be an “end times revival in Israel.”
My Old Errant Thinking
For most of my Christian life, I believed that a Jewish Messiah (meaning a world leader who was a Jew) would forge a 7 year peace deal with modern state of Israel and its Arab and Russian enemies. In addition, he would build a Third Temple, start temple sacrifices again and all would be hunky dory for 3 1/2 years.
Half way into the peace covenant, he’d enter the Holy of Holies and proclaim himself God, thus ending the temple sacrifice and breaking the peace treaty. Thus, he’d be revealed to be a false Messiah to most Jews and the Antichrist to Christians. The Jews would en masse recognize that they missed it and that Jesus was in fact the true Messiah and turn to him in faith, but too late as the Rapture had already happened. For the next 3 1/2 years, then, the wrath of God was going to be poured out on the world for rejecting His Son, even those who came to Christ during this great tribulation.
But no worries, because all this would happen so that Israel would come to accept Jesus and receive some spiritual and physical blessing promised to Abraham. God, you see, wasn’t done with Israel, although it took God 2 thousand years to continue His work with it.
Therefore, it was really important to support the modern state of Israel (at all costs). Why? Because of God’s promises to Abraham.
God promised that God would bless those that blessed Abraham’s offspring (e.g., the modern nation of Israel) and would curse those who would curse Abraham’s offspring. Thus the United States, Israel’s closest ally, would be mightily blessed, but the Arabs and the Soviet Union would be cursed. (I came to understand this view during the Cold War).
So if the USA would stop supporting the modern nation-state of Israel, it would receive a curse! And much moaning and hand-wringing occurs among some Christians whenever the US leaders take a stand against Israel, especially when it comes to swapping land for peace.
In fact, there’s an amazing correlation between certain natural disasters in the United States and its public declarations against Israel with respect to land. But is this a result of God’s curses? Or is something much more nefarious going on?
A Biblical and Simpler Way of Thinking
Well, I no longer hold to this view of end times at all and think it really misses the mark and I do think something far more nefarious is going on.
In short, I don’t look at modern events as fulfilling scriptural prophecies that Biblical authors recorded as already fulfilled. ‘Nuf said, but if you want more, keep reading.
And also I don’t suggest that the Christian “Church” has replaced Israel in God’s plans.
There is another view, which surprised me in its simplicity when my eyes were opened to it, and which solved the conundrums of supporting a modern nation that sometimes acts unjustly.
Unfortunately, people’s loyalty to an eschatological (a fancy word that means “end times”) viewpoint clouds their judgment with respect to the modern state of Israel and God’s overall plan to reclaim all the nations of the world.
God’s Old Testament Promises for Israel
God made several promises to Abraham, David, and Moses. And all have been fulfilled.
1. Abraham’s name will be great. Christians, Muslims, and Jews all revere Abraham. This has been fulfilled. Numerous New Testament scriptures attest to the greatness of Abraham. Hebrews 11:8 is one.
2. His descendants would be like the dust of the earth, too numerous to count (Gen 13:16), fulfilled verbatim in 1 Kings 3:8 and 4:20.
3. All the families would be blessed through Abraham (12:3), fulfilled through Jesus Christ (Galatians 3:8-9).
4. Father of many of nations (17:4-5), fulfilled if you belong to Christ (Gal 3:29).
5. A land grant (12:7 and 15:18-21), fulfilled in 1 Kings 4:21 and elsewhere.
While I encourage you to look up all these scriptures, I will be specific here.
On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your offspring I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates, the land of the Kenites, the Kenizzites, the Kadmonites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Rephaim, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Girgashites and the Jebusites. Gen 15:18-21
Under King Solomon, this promise was absolutely fulfilled:
Judah and Israel were as many as the sand by the sea. They ate and drank and were happy. Solomon ruled over all the kingdoms from the Euphrates to the land of the Philistines and to the border of Egypt. They brought tribute and served Solomon all the days of his life. 1 Kings 4:20-21
It’s confirmed again in Nehemiah 9, Ezra 4 and even earlier in Joshua 21:43-45, which says, “So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give the ancestors… Not one of the LORD’s good promises to Israel failed. Every one fulfilled.”
The land promise, however, was a conditional promise, as God explains to Solomon in 2 Chronicles 7:17-20.
And as for you, if you will walk before me as David your father walked, doing according to all that I have commanded you and keeping my statutes and my rules, then I will establish your royal throne, as I covenanted with David your father, saying, ‘You shall not lack a man to rule Israel.’ But if you turn aside and forsake my statutes and my commandments that I have set before you, and go and serve other gods and worship them then I will pluck you up from my land that I have given you, and this house that I have consecrated for my name, I will cast out of my sight, and I will make it a proverb and a byword among all peoples.
It was always linked to obedience (Leviticus 26:40-42 and Deut 7:12).
Whereas Gen 17:8 says the land is an everlasting possession, so does Gen 17:13 say circumcision is an everlasting covenant. And we know the New Testament changes this to a spiritual condition. God’s people, after all, would fill and inherit the whole earth, not just a bit of land in the Middle East.
Similarly, God says if Israel disobeys, the land will vomit them out of it (Lev 18), thus the “everlasting possession” is conditioned to their obedience.
There is no promise by God to bring the Jews back 2000 years after the Old Covenant was destroyed. History and scripture reveals that Israel did not follow the covenant, and was spewed out of the land (this is called the Exile).
Leading up to and after the Exile, God promised to bring them back, which he did 70 years after the Exile. God declared they had 490 years (70×7) of grace before Messiah came. He lived 30 years and then ministered for 3 1/2 years and was killed, resurrected, and went to heaven. In that process, he replaced the Old Covenant with a New Covenant.
Jesus declared several times that the generation that rejected him would see the wrath of God, and certainly 40 years later, wrath came to that generation of Jews that rejected him through the pagan Roman armies, that made the lands desolate. In other words, those that cursed Abraham’s offspring (Jesus) would be cursed, and the generation that cursed Jesus by killing him was indeed cursed.
6. Mosaic covenant: 613 laws that had to be fulfilled for blessing, and if they weren’t, God would turn from them. Hebrews 7-10 lays out this fulfillment and that God has replaced the Mosaic covenant with a better covenant, as prophesied in Jeremiah.
7. Davidic Covenant: God would set his everlasting kingdom up through a descendant, who would sit on the throne forever, given in 2 Sam 7, fulfilled by Jesus in Luke 1 and Acts 2.
Replaced Covenants. Fulfilled Promises.
So has the church replaced Israel? No. In God’s eyes, Israel is Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and those in Jesus by faith receive the blessings of the Old Testament covenants, not those genetically descended from Abraham (Galatians 3). Those that cursed Jesus were cursed already. Those that curse Jesus and never come to repentance,… guess what: they’ll be cursed.
Matthew draws our attention that in God’s eyes, Jesus is the true Israel of God. His narrative of Jesus’ life mirrors ancient Israel’s birth, journey to Egypt, return from Egypt, baptism, journey through the wilderness, receiving and interpreting the Law correctly, invading the Promised Land with God’s mission, and so on.
In fact, Jesus tells some genetic descendants of Abraham that their father is the devil, and not Abraham at all! (Matthew 3, John 8). He makes it clear that genetics isn’t important. Faith is.
As Paul explains in Romans 2 and Philippians 3, God honors His covenant with those who have been circumcised in the heart… through faith in Christ. He even says, “a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written Code.”
Therefore I, genetically descended from the Germanic peoples, am a Jew, because I am in Christ through faith, who is the fulfillment of what Ancient Israel was but a shadow. The old me is dead, and the new me has Jesus’ genetics. And a person genetically descended from Abraham who does not have faith in Christ is not a Jew in God’s eyes.
This is not replacement theology. I suppose you could call it fulfillment theology. Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Old Covenants, and replaced it with a covenant between God and the Person Israel (Father and Son, God and Man, God and God… Jesus was the Son of Man and the Son of God), and those who are in the Son by faith in Jesus receive the blessing the Son receives, and are adopted into the family, able to call God, “Abba, Father.”
All Israel Will be Saved
All Israel will be saved (Romans 11) does not refer to modern or future or any genetic Jews who aren’t in Christ by faith, but to those – Jews and Gentiles, Free and Slave, Male and Female – who are in Christ through faith, because Jesus Christ is the True Israel of God. Your genetics do not matter to God: Jesus’ does. Israel means “Prince of God.” Who is the Prince of God? Jesus.
While God divorced the ancient nation of Israel, any genetic descendant of Abraham (Jews) who wants to be grafted back into a covenant relationship with God can do so through faith in Jesus, with whom God established his New Covenant, while destroying the old in the 3 1/2 years war of 66-70 AD. God’s wrath was vented on the Old Covenant and the generation of Jews that rejected Jesus.
Who Rejected Whom?
As Paul explains in Romans 11, God didn’t reject his people, because he and the other first Christians were all Jews. Instead, a majority of Jews rejected God and His Son.
Even when ancient Israel whored after the Baals, there was always a faithful remnant. But since the Old Covenant was with the nation, and not individuals, the faithful suffered with the sinful.
Ultimately this too was worked into God’s plan to reclaim the nations disinherited at Babel. God all along wanted Israel dispersed among the nations (i.e., the Exile, from which many Jews set up colonies in all the nations and never returned to Israel except for important feasts), planting the seeds of the future Church (in Acts 2, when the Jews came from all the nations came for an important feast, heard the gospel in their own languages, got saved, and went back to spread it).
Modern Nations and God
So in conclusion, the modern nation of Israel has nothing to do with the covenant of God. Neither does the United States. God reconciled the world to himself through Christ, no longer holding their sins against them (2 Corinthians 5). Instead, God is interested in individuals who will disciple the nations (not curse them) leading them from faith to more faith, in grace to more grace.
Individual Jews and Gentiles are in Christ and have covenant relationship with God if they have faith in Jesus. Faith is the landing strip that allows grace – and the Holy Spirit- to enter a person’s heart.
God’s covenant is between God and Jesus, not between God and some nation-state long since destroyed and/or rebuilt.
The human act of setting up a nation in 1947 and declaring this was God’s plan, while insisting to be blessed, you have to do certain acts, and if you do certain other acts you’ll be cursed, is actually an effort to control God and is the sin of Babel all over again.
It absolutely undermines the New Covenant and the freedom Jesus purchased on the Cross.
God relates to humanity through Jesus and the New Covenant. He is not dealing with nations anymore.
There is not one prophecy in the NT suggesting God would disperse the nation of Jews and then bring it back 2000 years later or build a third temple millenia after scripture was completed. Man may do so in an effort to control nations or call down God’s wrath on dissenters, but this is idolatry and witchcraft. It has nothing to do with how God relates to humanity through Christ.
When Jesus went into gruesome detail about the destruction of the Temple, if he saw a time when another Temple would be built, mightn’t he had mentioned it? Instead, he declared in one generation, the end of the Temple system would come. The ensuing 40 years had many false messiahs, but the one that topped them all was John Levi of Grischala, who entered the Temple, stopped the sacrifices, proclaimed himself as savior, accepted worship of tens of thousands, ordered the slaughter of many more thousands… all while the Roman armies laid waste to the country side and besieged Jerusalem. Roman and Jewish historians witnessed it. It’s history. Read it.
Temple of Stone, Temples of Flesh
Jesus came to replace that Temple system with a new Temple System. The Old Temple of stone was supposed to be God’s house on the earth… I suspect God never was comfortable living in a house of stone. He prefers to tabernacle in houses of flesh.
His everlasting covenant isn’t with a nation-state that institutes animal sacrifice in a vain attempt to uphold the OT Law, but with those who are in Christ by faith, in whom He dwells.
The truth is, even today the USA has more Jews than Israel, and NYC has a greater concentration of Jews than anywhere else in the world. There is actually a net exodus of people from Israel these days to less expensive lands (over 50% of Jews who “return” to Israel actually return to their nation of origin). It’s pricey living there… and dangerous too.
In conclusion, Zechariah 12:10 says, “And I will pour out on my house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son.”
Does this point to an end-time Jewish revival?
Only in the sense that the End Times began with Jesus. John 19:36-37 says, “These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled, “Not one of his bones will be broken” and as another scripture says, “They will look on the one they have pierced.” And also in Acts 2, “… they were cut to the heart (grieved)…”
The bottom line is, the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ, not to the modern nation-state of Israel.
I personally generally support the nation of Israel because it’s a Western Democracy that values human rights and other Western (i.e., Christian) values, and is surrounded by tyrannical dictatorships which do not. However, when that nation or any nation enacts injustice, it’s important to call them to a better, higher standard of behavior.
The solution for the whole region- Jews and Arabs-, is faith in Jesus and only the love he can pour out. I believe God has a heart for genetic Jews, as he has a heart for Arabs and Muslims and members of Isis and all who are lost! Come Lord Jesus, and draw all to you!
Post Script: A Thought on Double Fulfillment
Many of my Christian prophecy-studying friend talk about double fulfillment. I think they confuse it with the type and shadow concepts, but anyway, when I ask where that’s in scripture, the answer is basically, it has to be because otherwise their eschatology would fall apart.
I see this as a fallacy brought to scripture. Do I understand all prophetic scriptures? Most? Of course not. I’m not even trying to. But each baffling passage should be viewed through the lens of Christ, the Cross and the New Covenant.